At least they approved one comment

Orthodox Bridge has put me on the perpetual probation list.  There are about four comments that probably won’t get approved (and about half a dozen from other sources refuting their Hellenism that will never see the light of day). While we are at it, I will put the spotlight on EO apologetics:

  1. Be loud on your “tradition.”  Notice how they will quote the apostles on tradition, but they never demonstrate that what the apostles mean by tradition is what they mean by tradition, especially relating to content?   Where did the Apostle Paul say you need to avoid food before Eucharist (contrary to 1 Corinthians 11:34)?  If one cannot show that what the apostles mean by tradition is what you mean by tradition, that is the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
  2. Ignore specific exegesis on Genesis 1-2.  This isn’t uniquely an EO problem.  All moderns are embarrassed by what the bible says on creation. A friend and I debate an Eastern Catholic who ridiculed creation theology.   We then backed the truck up and unloaded dozens of Fathers who affirmed–gasp–six day creation.   This is one area where Seraphim Rose cleaned house in debate.
  3. Apropos (2):   Creation theology teaches a firmament is placed between heaven and earth.  Later biblical theology identifies Jesus as the firmament between heaven and earth.   If Jesus is the firmament between heaven and earth, how then can saints intercede for those on earth when they are separated by the firmament?
  4. Ignore the 5 fold covenant model.   More and more I am impressed with Sutton’s fivefold covenant exegesis.  Henceforth I will no longer debate TULIP. If anyone wants to attack Reformed theology, deal with the Covenants.  Judicial Calvinism is all over the Old Testament.
  5. Does not the vaunted realism actually entail a chain of being ontology?  Isn’t this fundamentally the same thing as magic religion?  I agree that death is the main problem facing us, but the apostle Paul did not separate death from the judicial consequences of sin?

 

Other areas where Anchorites helped me

Some other places where studying Orthopraxis helped me in theological development:

Theonomy:  In case you don’t know, you simply cannot out-argue a theonomist.  They have a million counter-arguments to anything you might say.   You will not win.  They will not let you.   But when I was studying the fathers and different socio-cultures, along with the New Perspective on Paul debate, theonomy just didn’t seem important anymore.  I think I understand now what Paul meant when he warned of those who “wrangle over the law.”

Eschatology:   Some might say, “But Jacob, you are premil.  Orthodoxy, like Reformed amillennialism, holds to an Augustinian-Origenist framework on the millennium.”  Yes, I know.  One thing I never considered in earlier millennial debates is that the world, come the advent of Antichrist (which many in the rugged Russian tradition are very clear on, much to the chagrin of some ecumenists), the world will not be under his thumb in some Matrix type fashion.   Fr Raphael Johnson was very helpful in showing how some nations will rally around Christ (postmillennialists, there is your cue!) and others will submit to the New World Order.   That realization was breathtaking.  Apply that to a sounder exegetical model and you’re in business.  In the bio on Seraphim Rose Hieromonk Damascene connects a lot of dots on the UN.  I might post if I get around to typing all of that out.

High Culture:  Reading Rose’s bio got me more interested in Dostoevsky.   From Rose I listened to  Bach’s “Ich habe gennug.”  Fr Raphael Johnson got me interested in Vivaldi and Handel, which I then absorbed into my soul.

An olive branch to my Orthodox friends

I know I seem critical of Eastern Orthodoxy and I make no bones about that.   I do believe with regard to the believer’s confidence it casts doubt on the finished work of Christ and the down-payment of the Spirit (Listen to this interview by Fr Thomas Hopko.   One gets the impression that Christ might not be enough to save the believer.

Kevin Allen: Father, there are evangelicals who are listening out there, and they are saying, “You know what? These Orthodox, they have no idea whether they are saved or not, even if they have lived a righteous life, and they have spent all their time on their face prostrating, and tears, and everything else.” What you are saying is, you never know.

Fr. Thomas: Yes, I would say that is absolutely true, and the evangelical is completely and totally wrong. But I would say the evangelical is right if their answer to the question, “Are you saved?” is “Yes, absolutely, as far as God and the blood of Christ,” but to say that I can be saved, simply by saying that I accept Jesus as my savior, is blasphemous.

To put it mildly, that’s problematic.  But back to my main point.  It was because of the Orthodox guys that I read through the entirety of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Second Series).   I cross-referenced what they said with what Seraphim Rose said, noting both agreements and disagreements (anybody want to laugh at Rose on creation after reading Basil’s Hexameron?).  Perhaps more influentially, it was the outlaw priest Fr Matthew Raphael Johnson who really got me reading the fathers.   I am saddened that The Orthodox Nationalist is no longer broadcasting.  Those were some outstanding podcasts and his articles are well worth your time.  And for the record, I largely accept his apologetics proper

Where I’m still appreciative of some Ortho guys, again

Many of my posts have been critical to claims made by Orthodox apologists, and one apologist told me “I do protest too much” (though no one bothers to tell the guys at OrthodoxBridge the same thing.  Most of their posts are about how wrong Protestants are.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander).  I don’t want to sound like one always harping on the same thing, so I decided to say something nice.  (Unfortunately, I realize some of the people I mention are associated with groups that will embarrass mainline Orthodoxy.  Too bad for mainline then.  It’s hard to see Tsar Lazar or anyone predating the Nikonian Revolution–and it, along with the later “reforms” by Masonic Satanist Peter the Great was a Revolution as thorough as the Bolsheviks’–would be appreciated by World Orthodoxy.  See if you can dig up Fr Raphael Johnson’s essay on the Serbian leadership’s de facto, but not de jure, recognition of Kosovo)

  1. Joseph P Farrell:  I know Farrell is no longer Orthodox, but still.  One can only stand in awe of his research.  He is a remarkably clear thinker and he teaches you to reason your way through a topic.
  2. Orthodox Nationalist:  I listened to Fr Matt Johnson every week for three years.  He does a good job summarizing different aims of the New World Order and he is remarkably good on exposing the occult and freemasonry.  I bring up on Orthodox boards how different mainline Orthodox (former SCOBA and the non-American equivalents) groups are openly affiliated with Freemasony and Ecumenism and no one will touch that issue.
  3. Sergius Bulgakov:  Bulgakov’s Sophiology is dangerously close to Gnosticism and I understand why Maximovitch’s group condemned him.  The problem is that few people in today’s Orthodoxy can say why Bulgakov is wrong (which is probably why yet another Russian Church council exonerated him–so who’s right?  Don’t answer that).  He is valuable in giving us an honest reading of the Fathers.  A lot of times you will meet the claim that the Fathers are united in saying x.  Bulgakov takes the Fathers on the development of Christology and Pneumatology and completely blows that claim out of the water.  And that’s what I love about Bulgakov–he thinks through the tradition.  I had a discussion with some Orthodox apologists I brought up tensions within Cyril’s Christology, and they responded, “Well, Cyril is part of the inspired tradition.”  Maybe he is, but simply asserting that doesn’t make the problems go away.
  4. Fr Seraphim Rose:  His biography is awe-inspiring, yet he is an embarrassment to World Orthodoxy.  At a time when Orthodox thinkers wanted to show how relevant Orthodoxy was to the modern world, Fr Seraphim moved to the wilderness, resurrected Holy Russia on American soil, and loudly proclaimed a few key distinctives: six-day creationism and toll-houses!   It was great.   He then added insult to injury, albeit in a generous manner:  he documented how the fathers believed in these topics.  This unspoken inference is silent but deafening:  any Orthodox thinker who disagreed with him on this points was specifically out of line from what the Fathers taught.   Inference number two:  if you find Fathers who disagree with Rose then you must also posit a division in the patrum consensus.  I don’t agree with him on toll-houses (though CS Lewis taught something similar in The Screwtape Letters) and I am not as pro-Russia as I used to be, but it is interesting to watch the bourgeoisie hem and haw.

In which I commend my EO friends

I meant to write several appreciative posts of figures in Eastern Orthodoxy, but I never got around to it.  Instead, on a post where I relayed numerous Protestant difficulties with verifying oral tradition, it then turned into polemics, of which I had no intention.

Fr Seraphim Rose

Had I entered Eastern Orthodoxy two years ago, it wouldn’t have gone over well (I suspect).  I had read all of Fr Seraphim’s writings, including the magisterial biography done on him by Hieromonk Damascene (read it several times, actually). It is simply awe-inspiring.  I soundly resonated with all of his stands.   He mightily warned against several patriarchs compromising with Rome.  He sounded the trumpet against the attacks on Creation within the “conservative” camp of Orthodoxy (interestingly, the Protestant lay-apologist Phillip Johnson endorsed both his book on Creation and the biography; this is an example of a proper ecumenicism!).

And then I find otherwise conservative Orthodox guys ridiculing him and his beliefs.  One told me, “Anyone who believes what Fr Seraphim believed [presumably, the objector meant the positions on creation and toll-houses] is an idiot.”  I then quoted St Athanasius on toll-houses and St Basil on creation. Stuff like that, you know?

“But people turn Fr Seraphim into a cult!” they respond.  So?  What of it?  That is the case with numerous figures from history.  If only more would imitate his life-style (didn’t St Paul say something like that?).

Lessons we can learn from Fr Seraphim:

  • Eschatology:  He constantly said, “The time is later than you think.”  In the biography Fr Damascene documents how the world-system has converged in such a way that a one-world government is possible.   Of course, in his lecture on the end-times, Fr Seraphim comes off as embracing something akin to the amillennial view, identifying this present age as the millennium.  I think such a reading is problematic, but I agree with the essence of his talk.
  • Agrarianism:  This is another area that would make the bourgeoise uncomfortable.   The Platina Monastery was largely self-sufficient.  People ridicule agrarians.  What they don’t realize is that agrarian warnings are actually trying to save your life.   You are eating food that is pumped with all sorts of Monsanto death into it.  Further, when food becomes scarce during the time of Antichrist, it is places like Platina that won’t be starving.
  • Don’t embrace modernity:  Fr Seraphim urged people to acquire the mind of the fathers.  I tried.  I read through all of Schaff’s NPNF Series II.   The problem arose, however, when we try to make the fathers answer textual and cultural questions they weren’t asked.  Still, it’s better than the mindless conservative endorsement of post-1950s American mindset.
  • The Resurrection of Holy Russia:  Yet another area in which the bourgeouise were nervous.   NATO is the enemy of Orthodox Christian people’s everywhere.  Slowly.  Finally, are Orthodox Americans waking up to this fact.   Yet most are still too nervous to endorse Putin’s Russia (whom I fully support).  The reason is simple:  they really think and believe in a Republican president, all of whom have sworn mortal enmity to Russia.  We used to always pick on the Reformed people as living some mental contradictions.  Perhaps this is an area where Orthodox are not yet–to quote Van Til–Epistemologically self-conscious.

The Orthodox Nationalist

Fr Raphael Johnson‘s podcast have been a continual feast for me for three years.  In them I learned Plato’s Forms, Russian history, and late European philosophy.  He opened my eyes to the doctrinal compromises and made me realize and ask the question, “Could I really commune with Freemasons?”  (No, I couldn’t). I’ve probably listened to 80% of the podcasts at least four or five times each. Lessons learned:

  • While Holy Russia must be supported, not all of Russian history–even Russian monarchist history–is worth defending.  Peter the Great, as a Freemason, swore an oath to Lucifer.   After +NIKON Russia ceased to be a light on a hill and became an empire.  It ceased to be Jerusalem and became Babylon.  It requires wisdom to discern this.
  • Plato and the Forms:  I really began to appreciate Augustine, Eurigena, and Gregory of Nyssa in listening to Johnson explicate the forms.
  • Agrarianism:  He gave some practical advice on why agrarianism is superior for the brain.
  • Occult:  Much good stuff here.
  • Hegel:  for a while, I was a Hegelian.
  • True Orthodox and Calendar:  I’ve always been sympathetic to the Old Calendarists.

Speed-bump questions for my EO friends

As I must constantly reiterate, this post is not an attack upon Eastern Orthodoxy.  If someone honestly studies the historical questions and the lives of the Holy Fathers, particularly Fr. Seraphim Rose, and decides, “Yes, I need to become Orthodox.”  To such a person I say, “Praise God and more power to you.”  If on the other hand, someone says, “I just don’t know what to believe.  I don’t trust my thinking.  I need an authoritative church to decide matters of the faith for me,” then that person is not only naive, but dishonest.  Orthodoxy loves to stress the person-hood of individuals.  Good.  One of the things constituting personhood is that you have a brain.   Secondly, if you reasoned your way to Orthodoxy (if only by making logical arguments on why Protestantism is wrong), then your reason was temporarily sufficient enough to make at least one doctrinal claim.  Now to the questions,

To the fathers or to the Bible?

I was told recently that Protestants must “fearfully defer to one’s individualist reading” of Scripture over against the Church and the fathers.  Presumably the argument is saying that we should frame our reading around the Fathers’ reading of Scripture.   But what do we do when St John Chrysostom tells us “If any agree with the Scriptures, he is the Christian” (NPNF Series 1, vol.  11: 211).  Wow, it kind of re-writes ecclesiology, too.  Chrysostom goes on to answer objections, “Well, the other guy seems to read the Bible, too.  So how do I know who is correct?”  Chrysostom delivers the hammer-blow:  “Have you no understanding?  Have you no judgment?”

St Cyril of Jerusalem urges his readers to judge Cyril’s words by Scripture.  This places a heavy strain on the Orthodox understanding of tradition, which places the fathers in that nexus.  Presumably, one interprets the Scriptures by tradition, which tradition includes the writings of the Fathers.  But the writings of the Fathers say to interpret themselves by Scripture!  So which is it?

Athanasius on Person-attribute

The Romanides/Farrell guys in Orthodoxy love to distinguish between person, nature, and attribute–and it’s a fair distinction.   They tried to hammer me on this at Arakaki’s blog the other day, but I didn’t take the bait.  I didn’t because answering their questions would also implicate St Athanasius.    Athanasius often says the Son is the will (which is an attribute) of the Father.  Does this not confuse person and nature?  Someone could reply, “C’mon, you know what he means.   Yes, I probably do, but in any case stop with the Maximus questions on the Son assuming a fallen will.  Thomas Torrance was a Calvinist and he didn’t seem bothered by it.

But show me the tradition

Here’s the toughest part.  When I’m mocked for my “individualist” reading of Scripture, it is opposed to a vaunted tradition.  Hey, maybe the tradition is right, but I got some questions.   How do I know that practice x is really the tradition, since there is no corroborating evidence?  Evidence for an early church iconostasis is slim and when it did get on the scene, it was simply a fence around the altar to keep dogs from peeing on it.  In any case, answering the question is reasoning in a circle.

Review of Fr Seraphim Rose: His Life and Work

And before any Reformed folk get mad, the evangelical apologist Philip Johnson endorsed this book.

This biography read like a “page-turner novel.” Most novels aren’t this exciting. It is a combination of St Augustine’s *Confessions* along with a touch of Louis L’Amour. But most importantly, it is the story of a man’s passionate and desperate search for Christ. It is the excitement of a philosopher who spends his life for “truth” only to find Truth as a Person. Fr Seraphim’s life can be summarized along several major segments: The Search for Truth, The Religion of AntiChrist, Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers, and the Resurrection of Holy Russia.

Truth as a Person
Fr Seraphim, not unlike St Augustine, was philosophically-minded and spent much of his youth vainly looking for “truth.” He rejected the vapid form of Protestantism held by his nice, neat American suburb community, but soon drifted in and out of nihilism. After many bouts of anger and depression and binge-alcoholic drinking, he was to discover that Truth is “traditioned” and communities that had continuity with ancient traditions were more valid than more modern expressions of truth (64).

After his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, Rose began to analyze the modern world. He followed Nietszche’s trajectory of nihilism as the negation of truth (140ff). Nihilism in the modern age was to prepare man for the reign of Antichrist and the arrival of the New World Order. Rose outlined four stages of nihilism: liberalism, realism, vitalism, and Nihilism

The religion of Antichrist
For Rose, Antichrist was an “ape of Christ.” He represented the forces of Satan opposing Christ. He will appear “good” to the world and solve the problems of the world (88). His religion will be a “demonic pentecost.” The more fringe elements of society will become more mainstream (cf CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 281). There will be a frightening unity behind the disparate world religions. He noticed a common theme behind various religious phenomena: Charismatic Christianity centered on pagan forms of initiation; the ecumenical movement seeks to outdo each other in abandoning all forms of Christianity for the sake of “unity.” And then UFOs: There is actually something behind the UFO encounters. They are clearly something of the paraphysical and occult realm. The aliens seem to be a strange mingling of physic and psychic matter–just like demons. The matter in them is of such subtlety it cannot be perceived except by saints. The message of the UFOs is to prepare for the reign of Antichrist. St Ignatius Brianchanninov said that the miracles of Antichrist will be in the aerial realm, where Satan has chief dominion.

Acquiring the Mind of the Fathers
The Mind of the Fathers is the Living understanding of Holy Tradition (416ff). They are the links between ancient texts and today’s reality. The fathers are the most capable preservers of the Truth because of the sanctity of their lives. Rose learned that he had to “acquire their mind–” he had to learn, think, and feel the way they did. He had to conform his consciousness to that of the Fathers. Acquiring the mind of the fathers is to acquire the mind of the church, which is the mind of Christ, who is the head of the Church. How do we acquire their minds (465)? 1. Constancy: Rose worked out a spiritual regimen based on wisdom from the Holy Fathers. Regular reading of the fathersl 2. Pain of Heart.

The Resurrection of Holy Russia
Fr Seraphim noted that Holy Russia would be resurrected from the ashes of Communism before the end of the world (653). The return of a Tsarist and pious leader is the half-hour silence in heaven spoken of in the Apocalypse, immediately before the reign of Antichrist. Rose saw Russia as a “blood-covered martyric land.” The Tsar-martyr Nicholas II was the restrainer of Antichrist (2 Thess. 2). The patricidal murder of the Tsar is a sign we are living in pre-Antichrist times (192). This idea can be connected with the horror of the 20th century, the rise of globalist institutions, global credit, and secular ideologies.

Of particular interest here are the prophecies of St Seraphim of Sarov, who gave four prophecies pertaining to the resurrection of Holy Russia (he spoke in the 19th century), three of which have already happened.

Fr Seraphim’s message to us:
It is later than you think. We live in an age where secular leaders openly call for world governance based on the bloody ideologies of the 20th century. While many ages think they are in the last generation, and Fr Seraphim would not want us wasting time predicting “times,” the New Testament does call for us to be awake and alert. When the leaders of countries call for a one-world government and one-world market, and when we take note of the “demonic pentecost” (spoken above), we can’t pretend we are “just living in normal times.” Rose had a particularly painful chapter called, “Today in Russia; tomorrow in America.” He meant that the Communist GULAG would soon come to America. With Obama’s cabinet and FEMA, can anyone seriously doubt this?

In any case, Hieromonk Damascene did a wonderful job in writing this book.

A POST-READING REFLECTION

Sometimes Orthodox will say that Protestantism is necessarily seen as wrong because of the common slide towards liberalism.  I would reply, “Hold your horses.”  While SCOBA might not be denying the virgin birth or the supernatural, if you want to see if someone is inching towards “mainline-ism,” mention Fr Seraphim Rose’s name and watch his reaction.